The freedom of college

When we ask Collegewise students what excites them most about college, “The freedom” is one of the most common answers. And I’ve found with most kids that this isn’t code for “The freedom to act irresponsibly and do whatever I want all the time.” For most, it’s the freedom from the imposed structure, the lack of choice, and frankly, the pressure that’s become so common for today’s high school students.

I love that the pending freedom excites these kids, especially when they also start considering—not over-planning, just considering—what exactly they plan to do with that freedom once they have it.

You’ll have the freedom to make choices. It’s hard to find that freedom at age 17 when you’re in school six hours a day, then participating in after-school activities, doing homework, being tutored, doing test prep, etc. But college isn’t going to be like that. Even if you’re a student who works in college or plays a college sport or otherwise commits yourself to something important, chances are good you will have abundantly more choices available to you in college.

You’ll be free to learn just about any subject that interests you. And depending on your college and your course of study, those choices won’t be limited to what’s available as part of your major.

You’ll be free to decide how you want to spend more of your time.

You’ll be free to try new things—subjects, involvements, approaches, etc.

You’ll be free to take responsibility for yourself and for your decisions.

You’ll be free to fail. Not catastrophically (I don’t recommend flunking out of college), and not because you didn’t make the effort. But when you no longer have to worry about failure hurting your chances of getting into college, you’re now free to make the effort even when success isn’t necessarily a sure thing.

You’ll be free to reinvent yourself into who you are rather than what your high school world seemed to push you to be.

This newfound freedom won’t excuse you from your responsibility to make the most of your college time and money. In fact, your newfound freedom is what allows you to do just that.

So students, while you’re dreaming of how wonderful that freedom will be, spend some time thinking about just exactly what you’ll do with it when it arrives. Imagining what you’ll do with that freedom will help you find colleges that are right for you, get accepted when you apply, and be both happy and successful once you get there.